The latest Washington Post/ABC poll

The latest Washington Post/ABC poll data have been released; the Post trumpets the data as bad news for the the Administration, with the headline “Poll Shows Rising Doubt About War With Iraq.” The sub-headline says “President Bush’s approval rating continues to slide.” The complete data can be seen here.
The Post doesn’t say much about the poll’s methodology, except to note that it involved telephone interviews with 1,133 randomly selected adults, “including an oversample of 211 African Americans.” This is a huge oversample–roughly 50%–and obviously would invalidate the data unless an appropriate correction were made. The Post does not indicate that any corrective measures were taken.
Even with the oversample, the data do not seem particularly noteworthy. The President’s approval rating is of course down, but still strong at 59%, with a plurality of 36% strongly approving of his performance. The only area where his ratings are clearly down is the economy. It is curious how peoples’ poll responses on the economy bear little correlation to actual economic trends. Significantly more people describe the economy as “poor” now than did during the most recent recession.
As to Iraq, respondents favored “having U.S. forces take military action against Iraq to force Saddam Hussein from power” by a 57% to 41% majority, with a 40% plurality strongly favoring such military action. These numbers are down from their peak, but that is hardly surprising given the constant criticisms of the Administration’s policies and the politicization of the issue in recent weeks.
Based on the Post’s methodological disclosures, it is impossible to say whether these data have any validity, or should be thrown in the wastebasket. At worst, they are consistent with the fact that there has been little good news on any front for quite some time (apart, of course, from the non-news that there have been no more major terrorist attacks). But the Post’s casual admission of a gross oversampling of African-Americans raises the question whether it, like the Minneapolis Star Tribune–as the Trunk showed last October–has subordinated accuracy in polling to its own political agenda.


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